Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

TOP STORY >> Loop goes forward

Leader staff writer

Despite an attorney’s implied threat that if the Sherwood City Council approved the city’s master street plan it could cost the city “tens of millions of dollars,” the aldermen went ahead and approved the plan.

Hal Kemp, an attorney for the Sherwood Land Company which has plans for building 1,500 homes on 500 acres just west of Hwy. 107, said by approving the master street plan, the city is forcing the developers to place the North Belt on their plans and effectively cut off about 60 acres from development.

He added that he was at the council meeting to make sure the aldermen didn’t blindly vote for the street plan. “The Highway Department is not here tonight and neither is Metroplan, but the city is here to vote on taking on my client’s property. Your vote will trigger a train of events,” Kemp said.

Those events, according to the attorney, include the city having to pay not only for the North Belt right of way, but for all the land damaged because the owners don’t have access to develop it.

Kemp said he couldn’t guarantee that his clients would be in court in 30 days asking for the city to pay fair market value for the land. “Your budget is at risk. You will be named the defendants, not the highway department,” Kemp said, and then came back with, “but my clients don’t want to get crosswise” with the city.

Kemp couldn’t understand why the city would put the North Belt above the plans of one of the premier developers in the city. “You are asking him to put his livelihood on hold for a year,” Kemp said.

But Alderman Steve Fender and others questioned why this concern was not brought up a year ago when the council approved a resolution that accepted the latest federally-approved location for the North Belt.

“You are asking us to renege on an agreement,” Fender said.

Alderman Charlie Harmon said he had talked to Dan Flowers, the director of the state Highway Department and has received assurances that the state would not cut off the property, that some kind of access would be made available.

“A problem really doesn’t exist,” Harmon said.

Dwight Pattison, the city planner, told the council that the North Belt was already on the master street plan and had been on it for years. All the city was doing by approving the newest version of the street plan was making an adjustment to the location.

“If we don’t put it on the plan then no federal dollars are allowed to be spent on the project,” Pattison said.

Once the master street plan is approved with the location of the North Belt locked in, it puts the state highway department on notice that it has one year to purchase those right of ways.

If no movement is made, then the developers can build within those corridors, making the land more valuable and most costly for the state to purchase when it’s ready to buy.

Planning commissioner Lucien Gillham said in his talks with members of the highway department and highway commission he felt confident that everything would work out and that there would be significant movement on the project within the next two years.